Archive for May, 2010

May 30, 2010

E-Readers are so old school

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At least they are according to this 1986 advertisement for one from Radio Shack.

May 30, 2010

Book Review: Death & Dishonor: Warhammer

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Anthology – Various Authors

Black Library
(January 26, 2010, $8.99, 320 pages)

Over the years, the stories based on the Warhammer games & miniatures have gained their own following. No longer do you have to be a player to know the intricate details of this fantasy world, though it helps. Several of the books have branched into a series of novels, each with their own trademark characters. Populated with various races, such as elves, dwarves, and rat-men called Skavens, just to name a few, the world of Warhammer offers tales of bloody battles, political intrigue, and tests of faith. Bad guys are usually agents of Chaos – demonic forces accidentally unleashed upon the world, and the good guys are usually complex characters with loads of baggage that grow with each new adventure.

In Death & Dishonour, the Black Library has very wisely compiled a collection of the very best Warhammer fantasy sagas…a sort of literary appetizer that offers a sampling of the characters and creatures they have to offer. It would be unfair to write a general review of a book with nine different stories, especially when considering the talent of the authors, so I wrote about each one:

“Red Snow” by Nathan Long is a Gotrek & Felix tale set in the Mountains of Mourn. They’re guarding a caravan of merchants because Gotrek is hoping to find his doom along the way, but they’re delayed by an avalanche. A Sigmar priest, Father Gessler, invites them to stay in a nearby village while they dig out the mountain pass. He tells them about a monster roaming the mountains, so – of course – Gotrek wants to fight the monster. Long does an excellent job of writing a new story without disturbing the timeline of the Gotrek & Felix saga. If you haven’t already, I recommend reading Shamanslayer.

“The Assassin’s Dilemma” by David Earle was a sweet surprise – I wasn’t expecting a Skaven story. This tale takes place years after Skavenslayer, but includes several references to the Battle of Nuln. Sneeq Foulblade of Clan Eshin has been contracted by Warlord Glut to steal human weapons, and kidnap the engineer, Werner Grunhelm. Grey Seer Qik wants to kill Grunhelm himself, so Sneeq is forced to make alternate plans…yet another example of Clan politics undermining the Skaven race. If you enjoy this Skaven tale, then you should read Grey Seer (Thanquol & Boneripper novel).

“Rest Eternal” by Anthony Reynolds begins with the last moments of a battle between the knight Calard and a wyvern, in the Grey Mountains – although, those few moments are described over several pages. For the life of me, I didn’t see a reason for stretching out the battle, until I read the twist halfway through the story. This was one of the most unpredictable stories I have ever read, and the best fantasy-fiction that I’ve read in a long time. Reynolds has an amazing imagination. If you like this tale, consider reading Knight Errant.

“The Miracle At Berlau” by Darius Hinks is a tale concerning a young man nicknamed Ratboy, and his friendship with a Sigmar priest, Brother Wolff. As the two struggle to defeat a creature called The Reaver, details are revealed bit by bit about how the two met, and how they came to be in a blown-up temple. I love that the priest teaching the boy to read, in the past, played a part in the discovery of “The Miracle.” It was a nice enough story, but not nearly as much action as I would have expected from a Warhammer tale, although his Warrior Priest is a good book.

“Noblesse Oblige” by Robert Earl gives us a taste of the Florin & Lorenzo saga. The story unfolds with a watchman happening upon some Skaven (yaay!) in a grain store, presumably up to no good, and quickly moves onto Florin & Lorenzo selling corn to an Empire merchant named Gristwald. Afterwards, Florin & Lorenzo decide to visit a fighting pit that has Skaven as entertainment. After a bad decision on Florin’s part (several bad decisions in a row, actually), the two find themselves in the middle of complicated murder plot, which leads to a unique mêlée. One of the best tales in the collection!

In “The Last Ride of Heiner Rothstein” by Ross O’Brien, Heiner is apparently already dead. The tale is told from the point-of-view of his son, Wolfram. Over half the story is spent describing the unrest among the pistoliers, who have been drinking and telling stories in their campsite. They all seem to be having trouble remembering the details of their previous battle. Eventually, they find themselves fighting again, and that is when Wolfram begins to see people he thought were dead. While the plot twist was slightly predictable, the very end was not at all what I expected.

“Broken Blood” by Paul Kearney is about two brothers, Gabriel and Michael, separated in battle by Chaos sorcery. Two years later, Gabriel is near the end of a campaign to find out what has become of his brother, and the details of the separation are revealed in Gabriel’s flashbacks. Most of the story is pages upon pages of his final battle with the Chaos horde, in which I began to lose interest. By the time he learned what had happened to Michael, I didn’t care anymore. Broken Blood failed to impress me as much as the first six stories did. However, the ending wasn’t too bad.

“The Judgment of Crows” by Chris Wraight centers around the Amethyst wizard, Katerina Lautermann, sent to save Herrendorf from the unquiet dead. Unfortunately, she does not have the support or confidence of the villagers. A Sigmar priest, Boris, tells her the mausoleum of another Amethyst wizard may hold the key to saving the village, but when she summons the spirit of the wizard Arfol, she discovers a horrible secret. This story is a decent zombie-fantasy tale. Wraight also wrote Masters of Magic.

“Wolfshead” by C.L. Werner is a Brunner the Bounty Hunter adventure. I am not a fan of the trilogy, but I still thought the story was well-written. Brunner is not happy about having to keep Victor Schwartz alive to collect his bounty; to make matters worse, while trekking through a dense forest, a witch appears to warn them that they are being hunted. I could see where the story was going right away, but it was still fun to read.

One of the things that I liked best about this collection was the length of the stories. I also enjoyed having so many characters and settings from the world of Warhammer brought into one book. If you’re already a fan, you’ll recognize a lot of the names, places and time frames but if you’ve never read Warhammer before, this is an excellent book to begin with. You’ll have an idea whether or not Warhammer has any fantasy sagas you would enjoy.
~ Ursula K. Raphael


Ursula K. Raphael is a 35 year old wife and mother of one child living in Grand Rapids, MI. She homeschools her son and in her spare time reviews books, music, and movies. In addition to her interest in sci-fi/fantasy literature, she’s also preparing for the zombie apocalypse. You can find her parent survival tips at

May 29, 2010

To Kill a Mockingbird Turns 50

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This year, Harper Lee’s Pulitzer winning novel of race and law in the 1930s south, To Kill a Mockingbird turns 50 and celebrations are planned across the U.S. Lee, well-known for shying away from interviews and public appearances, will not be present at any of the gatherings. The novel’s publisher, HarperCollins, is embracing the continued interest in the novel that has never been out of print and is the second-best selling backlist title in the U.S. In addition to its long-standing spot on high school reading lists across the U.S., To Kill a Mockingbird has received additional attention in recent years following film portrayals of its mysterious novelist in “Capote” and “Infamous.”

May 27, 2010

$300,000 Late Book Fee Absolved

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According to the NY Daily News, an inflation-adjusted $300,000 late book fee accrued by George Washington was absolved when a replica of the book, The Law of Nations was returned to the New York Society Library 221 years overdue. Mr. Washington was not available for comment, though his estate acknowledged that he “did not do his public duty” by failing to return the book promptly.

May 27, 2010

Write Away #36

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Elephant tattoo.

More about write away.

May 26, 2010

Awesome Author Photo: Simon Rich

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Simon Rich’s second novel, Elliot Allagash, was released by Random House this week. Rich, a twenty-six year old writer for Saturday Night Live and son of The New York Times journalist and former theatre critic Frank Rich (Shout Out: Frank Rich’s memoir, Ghost Light is one of the best memoirs ever written), has a phenomenal author photo, mostly because we can’t believe he’s really in his mid-twenties.

Based on these pictures, we have a feeling Rich still gets carded when he purchases alcohol, cigarettes, subway tickets, or whenever he leaves the house without his nanny. At least when he’s eighty he’ll look twenty-five.

May 23, 2010

Music Review: Geronimo!

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Fuzzy Dreams

Fuzzy Dreams could not be a better album title for Chicago’s, fuzz-rock band Geronimo! The recent, great 90’s resurgence shares not only sound similarities, but ethos too. Bands like Vivian Girls, Male Bonding, and Dum Dum Girls are embracing the ‘rough around the edges’ sound of the 20th Century’s final decade opposed to the electronica that seems to influence many A-list indie acts at the moment. However, the 90’s aren’t exactly being ripped off – the aforementioned bands are embracing melody, low-fidelity and simplicity, all the while staying undeniably fresh like candy to the ears.

The introduction to Fuzzy Dreams begins with feedback and a host of offbeat sounds that meld together into “Thunderbattles.” The album’s opening track is spearheaded by a warm distortion and shoegaze akin to the sound of fellow Chicago natives Smashing Pumpkins. Luckily vocalist Ben Grigg isn’t as whiny as Billy Corgan.

“Design Yourself a Heart,” takes a different turn, blending intricate guitar riffs and possesses Modest Mouse cred, while the slow building, 7-minute-plus, “Battery Acid Moustache” shows a darker side of the band and their willingness to let the music dictate itself. Guitarist, KJ Blaze, displays an epic double-tracked guitar solo around the half-way point making ‘Battery’ one the strongest tracks on the album.

“Nakajima” displays the band’s softer side, while “Approaching the Skyline” has a confident, upbeat pop sound. Each song is layered and structurally sound, taking in a host of influential 90’s sounds – the drum breakdowns in “Deep Warmth” pleasantly resemble Repeater-era Fugazi while the album’s last, most epic and poignant ballad, “Judgement Day,” resembles Radiohead guitar strums and dreamy Syd Barrett-esque vocal harmonies. As the album softly fades away with a Beta Band-like horn section denouement, Fuzzy Dreams ends on a high note.

Geronimo! has successfully blended 20 years worth of indie and alternative influences into an impressive debut and a sound that ultimately belongs to themselves. Fuzzy Dreams is a complex and great display of the American underground that deserves whatever buzz it receives.

May 22, 2010

And the Lost prize goes to…

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Troubles by J.G. Farrell is the winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize.

The one-off award was announced with a twenty-two novel longlist (quickly shortened to twenty-one due to publication discrepancies) on February 1, 2010 to acknowledge the best literary fiction of 1970. Honourary archivist for the Booker Prize Foundation Peter Strauss came up with the idea when he discovered that 1970 publications were excluded from Booker Prize recognition because the decoration switched in 1971 from being a retrospective award to an annual award for the novel judged as best in that publication year. The untimely switch saw 1970 publications disregarded for the Booker Prize. Ion Trewin, literary director of Man Booker Prizes commented on the Man Booker Prize website that “Our longlist demonstrates that 1970 was a remarkable year for fiction written in English. Recognition for these novels and the eventual winner is long overdue.”

The shortlist for the Lost Man Booker Prize, announced on March 25, 2010, was comprised of six novels: The Birds On The Trees by Nina Bawden, The Bay Of Noon by Shirley Hazzard, Fire From Heaven by Haley Renault, The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark, The Vivisector by Patrick White, and Troubles by J.G. Farrell. The shortlist was narrowed down by a panel of three judges: journalist and critic Rachel Cooke, ITN newsreader Katie Derham, and poet/novelist Tobias Hill, who were all born in or around 1970. After the shortlist was determined, the winner’s fate fell to the public by way of online voting, which closed on April 23, 2010. The winner was announced May 19, 2010.

J.G. Farrell was a novelist of Anglo-Irish background and born in Liverpool, England in 1935, he died in 1979. In 1956 he began studying at Brasenose College in Oxford, England, and graduated in 1960 with Third-Degree Honours in French and Spanish. While at Oxford Farrell contracted polio which left him diseased and crippled for the remainder of his life, themes prominent in his 1965 novel The Lung. His first work, A Man From Elsewhere, was published in 1963.

Troubles takes place in 1919 Ireland and follows recent British Army discharge Major Brendan Archer, now living at the Majestic Hotel on the Wexford coast of south-east Ireland. The Majestic is owned by Archer’s presumed fiancé’s elderly father Edward Spencer. The Spencers are an Anglo-Irish Protestant family who counter Archer’s Anglo-Irish Catholic perspective. The story progresses with the breakdown of social relationships between these clashing ideologies, represented by the slow decay of the Majestic Hotel. Troubles won the Faber Memorial Prize in 1971, and is the first novel in Farrell’s historical fiction Empire Trilogy, preceding The Siege of Krishnapur (1973) which won the Booker Prize, and The Singapore Grip (1978). Ironically, if Troubles was awarded the Booker Prize in 1970, Farrell would go on to be the first double winner of the prize with The Siege of Krishnapur.

May 21, 2010

It May Not Be Winter, But There’s Still Slush

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Slush piles are those sad, sad places where unsolicited manuscripts sent to publishing houses go to die. In a recent post at Sargastic Irrelevance, the implications of virtual slush piles are discussed as writers now have more options to publish their own books, a task that requires significant talent with self-marketing. Self-publication is one way to see one’s book in print but without the financial back-up from a publishing house and the aid and knowledge of a publicist, getting published might be easier but getting read might not.

May 20, 2010

Flash Fiction: Bats and Butterflies

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From the May 2010 issue of this , the opening lines of Bats and Butterflies by Christine Stoddard.

Eleana sits in the English garden, marveling at another Richmond moon, with its clean, clean face (pure at least compared to the jostling James.) Her wispy nightgown fans out around her hips like a period costume. A pair of crooked fairy wings hang from her shoulders, shoulders that shine bright white in the glowing night light. Her boyfriend bent the coat hanger she used to construct the wings after she muttered she was pregnant. She wore the ripped pantyhose, which she later inundated with dollar store glitter, the night of the fatal escapade.

Continue reading Bats and Butterflies….

May 18, 2010

Tweets meet Short Fiction

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Bartholomew Heaven tweets at whiskyping about all manners of short fiction, flash fiction, etc, including lots of great tips on contests and websites for short fiction writers.

May 18, 2010

Bermuda Triangle: Vampires, Books, and Film

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The undead are everywhere these days. According to Variety , two big book-to-screen adaptations are on the horizon: Jack Kerouac’s American road novel On the Road and Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks , a non-fiction book about a woman whose cancerous cells were collected from her body after her death from cervical cancer and used, without her family’s knowledge or permission, in the study of medical advancements from polio cures to HIV-related treatments.

So what’s the vampiric attachment? Kirsten Dunst recently signed on to star in On the Road , joining Kristen Stewart, among others, on the project. Dunst’s film career took off after her role in the 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice’s novel, Interview with the Vampire , where she played a child-vampire locked in a pre-pubescent body for all eternity. Stewart stars in the Twilight film adaptations. Alan Ball, who is the creator and executive producer of HBO’s “True Blood” series, also about vampires, is attached to produce the telepic based on Skloot’s book for HBO, Variety reports. Oprah, who has yet to reveal her fangs, is also set to produce the project.

May 17, 2010

May is Short Story Month

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Okay, okay, we know that May is half over and we’re a bit late to the game. That’s okay. There’s still time for some thoughts on the short story, right?

Robert Gray wrote a wonderful column about short stories and the confusion (what is a short story? how long is it, exactly?) and frequent resistance (why would I want a really good story to end after just a few pages?) that often accompanies the genre. Most interesting is the inquiry into whether, in an age of shortened attention spans, busier people, and less time to dedicated to reading, the short story is primed for a comeback, assuming that the short story was ever widely embraced and loved. The idea behind flash fiction (also known under a hundred related names: short-shorts, sudden fiction, hint fiction, minute fiction, micro fiction) is that people, with less time available to read, are looking for shorter, less complicated but strongly written pieces with an obvious point of view. (See: blogs.)

Read Gray’s column. Lydia Davis has some opinions on narrative and length in stories that she discusses in The Believer. While you’re at, we published two great pieces of flash fiction (for us, stories less than 1,000 words) in the May 2010 issue of this .

May 17, 2010

Who says women don’t write poetry?

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Don’t believe it? Take a look at Jessica Smith’s list and read some poetry by women, dammit! Men aren’t the only ones writing sweet nothings for their lovers….

May 16, 2010

Write Away #35

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Today’s Write Away:

These are hard days, she knows, made harder by the stillness and the fog, and yet she must face each morning without hesitation. She can never let on that she is weary and afraid, ready to give in.

May 13, 2010

Flash Fiction: Taped to a Rocket

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Taped to a Rocket
by Lauren MacDonald

I came twice after when you were no longer there. Perhaps you have been tempted by exotic chocolates, fishnet tents, and the lure of the warm ocean water. Perhaps none of those things have tempted you at all, and it was the hollowness of yourself – like my the empty scoops of my pockets – that drove you away.


The shooting stars all fell out of my pocket. Great! he yelled, pulling his hands and the grip of his hard muscles away. Get off before we catch on fire! I had forgotten. He jumped off the blanket in the field, my bra flinging into the air with him. The corner was burning, the flame nibbling at the red thread and florals. Some of the darkness of the hills turned green again in the light of the flicker. I didn’t know where we were; we had gone so far off of the main trail that ran towards the mountain. It was cold like the city, but a different type of cold that came naturally, a cold that was able to breathe. The cold hitting my chest made me simultaneously forget and remember that I was nude, trying to catch my breath and stop my chest from heaving.

Continue reading “Taped to a Rocket” by Lauren MacDonald and published in the May 2010 issue of this .

May 12, 2010

Michael Chabon: Awesome Author Photo

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The paperback cover of Michael Chabon’s memoir on being a father, husband, and son, Manhood for Amateurs is a school photograph of him as a youth. We know not everyone was a photogenic child but we especially love the furry animal he’s desperately gripping at the bottom edge of the photo.

Michael Chabon: Author Photo Awesomeness

May 11, 2010

Found Poetry

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In keeping with my goal to read at least one poem a week, this week I decided to watch Naomi Shihab Nye read from her poem, “One Boy Told Me,” a found poem composed of things her son shared with her.

One week down, 51 more to go!

May 9, 2010

Oh my Gawd Becky, Look at Her Book

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For all the book nerds out there and with apologies to Sir Mix-a-Lot, this is freaking awesome.

May 8, 2010

Vampire Baby Names

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Stephanie Meyer’s literary phenomenon Twilight has exploded into the parenting world with the names Jacob and Isabella coming #1 on the Social Security Administration’s list of most popular baby names for 2009. Also, Cullen (as in werewolf/alternate love interest Edward Cullen) is the fastest rising boy’s name on the list.

In a press release acknowledging their new status at the top, Baby Jacob and Baby Isabella issued a joint statement thanking Americans for “their support and good taste.” They also urged fans to “check out to learn about a new ‘twist’ in the law that may help an older relative or neighbor get an average of almost $4,000 of extra help with Medicare prescription drug costs.”

Do vampires need to worry about health care?

May 6, 2010

New issue of THIS!

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The May issue of this is up and reading for your enjoyment. This issue features eleven writers and poets, writing on such diverse topics as:

-bats, butterflies, rockets, superheroes and other things that fly
-the laws of physics that requires gravity bring objects, like leaves and buildings, down
-where, exactly, broken hearts go
-what happens on those mean, nasty backstreets
-won’t somebody think of the children?
-jazz and healthcare

Visit to read, treasure, comment, and enjoy!

May 4, 2010

Natalie Portman is a Zombie!

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Well, maybe not. The New York Daily News reports that the actress will star in and produce an adaptation of the hit smash-up novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. The novel takes Jane Austen’s classic and adds what Austen would have included had she obtained an MFA: zombies. Director Richard Kelly (of Donnie Darko fame) is currently attached to direct. The film is set for a 2011 release.

Seth Grahame-Smith’s most recent novel is Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and follows Honest Abe as he tries to keep the U.S. together while simultaneously battling vampires. According to the book, rampant vampirism in the south was a minor cause of the Civil War.

May 3, 2010

Write Away #34

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“She was going to have to make the choice.”

May 3, 2010

Upcoming Bush Memoir Redeux

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Former President George W. Bush’s memoir, Decision Points is due in November. The Huffington Post recently invited folks to photoshop their own titles and covers for the book. (Personal favorite: #10)

Former First Lady Laura Bush’s memoir, Spoken From the Heart is due in stores tomorrow. Hit us up with a review if you’d like!